Pioneer DJ has today announced the $600 DDJ-FLX6 controller, a four-channel controller for Rekordbox DJ and Serato DJ, that sits between the DDJ-400 and DDJ-800 in the company’s range – and has a feature set that we predict will delight and bemuse DJs, in equal measure.
Read on for the overview, or go to our full Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 review.
The basic low-down
So on the face of it, the DDJ-FLX6 has got a decent spec: It has full-sized jogwheels and an aluminium top plate, it unlocks Serato DJ Pro (with Pitch ‘n Time and FX Expansion Packs included) and is also a Rekordbox unlock device, meaning users have a choice of what software they wish to use it with. (More specs later.)
It has a vaguely club-standard layout.
Sure, it does not have standalone mixer capability or inputs for external CDJs or turntables, so it’s more like a four-channel DDJ-400 (indeed, many were expecting a “DDJ-600”, making the FLX-6 a mild surprise) than a true “pro” controller.
But the real point of the DDJ-FLX6 is that it is designed to “make it easy to hype up the audience, mix songs from totally different genres, and spice up DJ sets with pro-sounding scratch effects.”
In other words, you can look good on this, without much skill. Great for those Tik Tok DJ vids? You decide…
What are the innovative features?
So there are three new features that Pioneer DJ has introduced here: Merge FX, Jog Cutter, and Sample Scratch. Frankly, I’d advise you to watch Pioneer DJ’s promo video – it’s revealing in lots of ways. Here it is:
Now let’s look at some of the features you just saw:
- Merge FX is controlled by a new big knob top right of each jogwheel. Turning the knob creates an instant build using your choice of effects, and pressing the knob adds a crescendo. You then trigger the “drop” by starting the next track, and the Merge FX setting can even round your transition out with the addition of a sample of your choice. It’s like James Hype’s Mixing Skills – without any of the skills
- Jog Cutter lets the DJ select a scratch effect by moving the jogwheel clockwise to a set position (the jogwheel has a track position display built into it to assist with this), and trigger that scratch by moving the jogwheel anticlockwise. You are moving the jogwheel. Scratch sounds are coming out of the speakers. Hey!
- Sample Scratch immediately loads a selected sample to the deck at your choice of cue point, so you can scratch with it, or indeed apply the Jog Cutter to it. This feature is called Scratch Bank in Serato DJ Pro, and was previously only available on that software with the DJM-S11 mixer – so it is, in fact, a decent pro tool in the right hands, and appears here as a Rekordbox feature for the first time
“Woah! Sounds a bit sus to me…”
Pioneer DJ reasons that: “With more music available via streaming services than ever before, DJs are constantly discovering genres they haven’t explored previously. But, while it’s natural for a DJ to want to play the sounds they love during a set, switching between musical styles can be daunting.
“The DDJ-FLX6 gives DJs the creative freedom to play the tracks they want to in any order – without worrying about mixing different keys and BPM ranges.”
On the one hand, this is true. People have got wider tastes than ever. DJ sets are more open-format than ever. And learning skills does, well, involve learning, which can be daunting.
Indeed, DJ AM inspired a whole generation of DJs to up their game, and the whole open-format DJing culture exploded. (He did it with routines like the one we teach in this free DJ AM Wonderwall Routine Lesson, if you’re interested.)
Watch the live show discussing the DDJ-FLX6
We hosted a live show where we talked through some of the main features of this unit, with lots of feedback and views from our community. This is the recording of it.
Pioneer DJ continues: “There are no limits thanks to the new Merge FX feature. With simple control of a single knob, DJs can create a dramatic build in the music and make it rise to a crescendo … all of this can be done at any point in a song – no need to know when the chorus or break is coming…” (My italics.)
But I do need to inject a gentle reminder here, folks. Automated effects chains cannot replace the basic skills of DJing – skills like programming, track selection, knowing where to mix, and so on. This controller will not teach or give you those things.
Learn all the skills of modern DJing: The Complete DJ Course
However it’s the “Jog Cutter” that’ll get most backs up, I suspect. Moving a jogwheel forward to select a scratch sound and backwards to trigger it looks, well, a lot like scratching. Reminder: It most certainly isn’t.
“Does any of this matter? Looks cool!”
Ultimately, though, all of this does look like a lot of fun. And none of these features will necessarily sound bad in the hands of DJs who understand the basic skills.
I have no doubt that turning the big “instant drop” knob and hearing the results will feel great to anyone, whether they can DJ or not, and for those with no shame or no clue, triggering auto scratches with a jogwheel may feel like an accomplishment. However I do fear an increase in audiences being subjected to entirely inappropriate “DJing” thanks to some of these features.
I’ll tell you one thing though. My daughter (aged eight) would love it. She’d see this (a clip from Pioneer DJ’s promo video)…
…and all she would see would be possibilities.
She’s already a pretty innovative little video editor, using video apps that take “cheating” to a level way above anything on display here. Are pro videographers worried about eight-year-olds making Tik Toks using awesome little apps? No. Should pro DJs be worry about people mixing using these kinds of tools? Again, I’d say, no.
Truth is, there’s always room for new talent at the top – and even more worryingly, perhaps, I suspect we’ll see some genuine innovation from the best of the next generation of DJs, using at least some of these features. (Jury’s definitely out on Jog Cutter, though. Sorry, but that is sus.)
The bottom line
Let’s step back from all of that – whether or not you use any of these things, and whatever your feeling about them, this controller does fill a gap in the market.
At $600 for a four-channel controller that works out of the box with Serato DJ and Rekordbox DJ and has full-sized jogwheels, there is currently nothing else recently released that’s competing, either in Pioneer DJ’s range or anyone else’s.
For completion’s sake, let’s run through some of the things you do/don’t get at this price. It’s got:
- Four full channels – not standalone, all software
- Full-sized jogwheels with centre position display – until now unheard of at this price point
- Booth output – unusual on a “consumer” controller
- Software Beat & Color FX – in the standard club layout position on the mixer
- Mic in – these sockets have come into their own in this new livestreaming era. Volume control for mic is on rear
- Aluminium top plate – Definitely a step up from cheaper controllers, like the DDJ-400
- Performance pads – although not RGB
- Bus powered – ie no power brick, all power comes from your computer
- 1/8″ and 1/4″ headphones sockets
Bottom line is that Pioneer DJ will probably shift loads of DDJ-FX6s – but if you’re reading this as a new DJ, just don’t think the gimmicks here will teach you the skills of DJing.
Although you’ll probably fool quite a few people, and have lots of fun, on the path to realising that…
(One suggestion, newbies: Pair this controller with our DJing Made Easy course. The gimmicks will get you hooked. The course will get you the skills…)
So, it’s a contentious one! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below… and click here for our full Pioneer DJ DDJ-FLX6 review.